Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Lately, a couple friends have asked us how we “come up with this stuff” to blog about. And the answer is that we don’t actually come up with anything, I just turn a tape recorder on at some point during the day. Sunday is kind of an exception, because on Sundays I try and have a definite question that I want Buck to answer for Q&A. But I’m not a planner in the planning sense; I shoot from the hip when it comes to pretty much everything. Because of that, every now and then I tape a conversation that just isn’t suitable for print. They’re not dirty conversations, or racist or anything like that. As far at that stuff is concerned, both Buck and myself would sooner put fork to eye than listen to racist comments, or even worse, a racist “joke”. 

 No, the conversations that I find unsuitable are ones that just don’t go anywhere. Not that our conversations ever go anywhere, but some are to the Nth degree. We jump around, make insider references that no one would get, state misinformation then insist it’s fact, and I can’t even find a sound byte to end it on. They’re just interviews gone bad.

Normally I take a conversation like that and just tape over it later in the day, but this past weekend we were buried in work and time didn’t allow for a second, better discussion later on. So, to demonstrate what I’m talking about when I say how bad an interview can go, I’m blogging the following:

Without this helpful yellow circle, I would have missed ax-wielding serial killer Fritz Haarmann in this charming Christmas advent calendar offered by the Hanover, Germany, board of tourism. Here, Haarmann is pictured at his old stomping grounds along the Leine river where he dumped the bodies of the 24 boys and young men he murdered before he was caught in 1925.

 Me: I read that in Germany, an advent calendar is creating a lot of problems. The board of tourism who created the calendar included a famous serial killer in the little pictures, because he lived and killed in that town. So my question to you is, how much time must pass before a murderer can become a national treasure? At what point in time is all forgiven and it’s okay — and smart business sense, even  — to embrace a killer’s path as a tourist destination?

Buck: [sighs deeply] Is this your topic?

Me: Kind of. Yeah. What do you think of tourism people embracing killers and their crime scenes?

Buck: Well, people go to Nicole Simpson’s house, they go to OJ’s house. There are bus tours, and people like to get photographed there, so I guess there’s a call for it and there are good parts to it. Unless you’re a neighbor.

Me: There are no good parts to it.

Buck: Well, what’s your question? I don’t understand what you’re angling at.

Me: [laughing] I’m not angling for anything. I thought I thought …

Buck: What did you think?

Me: I don’t know. I guess I saw that advent calendar and it made me think of the Jack the Ripper tours in England —

Buck: Well this topic … is kinda weird. You know?

Me: Yeah. I agree, it’s weird. And probably in poor taste even for us.

Buck: [in stupidly high voice meant to be mine] Do YOU have an opinion whether it’s good to have a killer on your town Christmas card?

Me: [laughing] That wasn’t even my question. [laughing]

Buck: [laughing] Oh. My mistake I guess. What was your question?

Me: Oh, God.

Buck: Did you think this murderer Christmas card thing was lighthearted? Because it’s not. It’s a downer, not to mention weird. And not weird in a good way.

Me: [laughing] I suppose I could do a different topic.

Buck: Oh, I think we should continue with this one. This one’s really going places. Plus, it will help to alienate all the people whom we haven’t alienated yet. 

Me: [laughing]

Buck: Another good thing about it, is that you haven’t used the fuck-word in your blog lately so maybe you could refer to it as the fucking advent calendar

Me: [laughing]

Buck: — which will keep you in good standing with that subversive  sub-culture you’ve joined where you’ve all taken a vow to use swear words in your posts. You’ve probably been kicked out by now.

Me: I was never part of that thing and they are not a weird sub-culture. They’re linguists for crying out loud. LINGUISTS. And I was never part of it. I just happened to read about it. Not that I’m against it, it’s just that I don’t go out of my way to swear for shock value. I just swear when I swear, but like everything else I’m pretty lazy about it, so I couldn’t have participated even if I’d been asked to.  

Buck: That’s true.

Me: But this whole interview has taken a weird turn because I was talking about murders in history and how tourism is exploiting the whole thing, and you brought up a recent killer who’s still on the loose playing golf and robbing people at gunpoint and whatnot.

Buck: [laughing] What’s the difference?

Me: WELL THAT’S WHAT I’M ASKING. Is there a difference? Is it acceptable to  embrace murderers after a certain amount of time goes by? Ten years? A hundred years?

Buck: I think the old ones are more boring. Most of them, anyway.

Me: I don’t think that one murder story is more boring than another. Old murders aren’t more boring  —

Buck: They were. There was no DNA, no photos. Murderers could be anybody. YOU could have been a serial killer —

Me: I could have never been a serial killer —

Buck: No, what I’m saying is that anybody could have committed the crimes because getting away with it was easier before all the new technology —

Me: I can’t get into this now. Never mind.

Buck: All I’m saying is that the old killers are boring because killing back then wasn’t that hard. I mean, Lizzie Borden kills her fa–

Me: HEY! Lizzie Borden is totally off-limits here. Don’t even go there. I’ve read a lot about the case, watched all the forensic documentaries AND the Elizabeth Montgomery movie, and I believe the theory that Mr. Borden had a history of sexually abusing Lizzie and her sister and Lizzie had had enough. So, given the era and the circumstances, given her history prior to the crime and after I can’t fault Lizzie Borden for what I believe was an act of rage and desperation. So leave Lizzie out of this. 

Buck: God. Elizabeth Montgomery must have been very powerful in that roll for you to feel so strongly she must have done a helluva job —

Me: [laughing] Shut up. [laughing]Elizabeth Montgomery was not the deciding factor, although it was fascinating the way they said Lizzie did the whole thing naked, which is why there were no bloody clothes or shoes —

Buck: I think you believe Elizabeth Montgomery was Lizzie Borden.

Me: She did do a great job and I liked having it all put into perspective that way. The timeline, the trial. I welcomed that movie after hearing the Lizzie Borden song my whole life, and having Fall River and Lizzie Borden become synonymous —

Buck: Synonymous for you. I don’t think of Lizzie Borden when I think of Fall River.

Me: I hate this conversation. And my mail box is full of stuff I haven’t even opened. Seriously. It’s FULL. I have 175 unopened emails, and the thought of them makes me very tired. I don’t even think there’s any spam or stupid chain letters in there. That’s weird isn’t it, wishing half my mail was spam and chain letters? And I’m hungry. I need something to eat.

Buck: I’m gonna go get the M&M bag. I need some M&Ms after this conversation.

Me: What conversation? I don’t even know what this was, but I have to post it anyway.

Buck: Why?

Me: I don’t know.

Thanks again for the ashtray from Hawaii, Gail. I love it.



Lizzie Borden B&B in Fall River.

London Times: German Calendar Reminds Children of Serial Killer


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Gee, Mommy

cigarette ad

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Everybody Dance!

They aren’t Sea-Monkeys, but they’re close: The Monks. Thanks studiobob, this German band is awesome. We love this video!

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Stella In Politics

As many people know, Brian from In Repair is the leader of Stella’s Fella’s. He designed this T-shirt over here on the left.

Well, Brian sent me an email this morning with a link that was so shocking, I spit my coffee out onto my keyboard.

He wrote something like, “Call me crazy but isn’t that Stella?” with this link. I clicked on it and then spit my coffee onto my keyboard.

If you haven’t already, go ahead and click on it. I’ll wait here.

Can you believe it? It is Stella, by God! On the Interweb! In the sweater I knit her last winter! With that sanctimonious look she always has on her face. And it figures it would be the leader of Stella’s Fella’s who would somehow sense she was out there whooping it up without having issued a press release to her fan club.

Of course I was aghast. I didn’t really know what to think of it so I just started screaming, everyone in the house came running, and then Buck busted out laughing. He thinks it’s hilarious.

Once I thought about it I didn’t mind at all. After all, I take photos off the Internet all the time. But of all people to sneak herself into politics it would be Stella. She’s such a betch!

Maybe I should be grateful to her, because it does afford me the opportunity to post once again this favorite photo of myself over here on the right, the photo I have vowed to run for the rest of my life and beyond.

The thing is, Stella showing up on a political website isn’t even that shocking, really. She has a power over people that is just downright weird. And what I think of her doesn’t seem to matter to anyone, least of all her. It never has.

So now I’m left to wonder where she will turn up next. Nothing would surprise me. And wow, Brian, what a find. Points to you! I’m sure this will secure you as permanent leader of Stella’s Fella’s. I need to make you a widget.

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Can’t Get Enough Jesus

In reference to my post on Licking, someone sent this to Buck, who then sent it to me. I was pretty disgusted with myself after that post, when I hadn’t immediately recognized Jesus on the licking T-shirt. After all, when was the last time John Turturro ever looked this hot? Or cool, rather. Anyway, it also kind of ties in with my Swap-Bot post this week about cover music. This is a great cover because, again, when was the last time an Eagles song ever sounded this good? When the Gipsy Kings covered them, that’s when. From everybody’s favorite movie, The Big Lebowski …

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Me: Whose party was it when Rona Barrett flipped out?

Buck: It was actually a guy … there was a big Notre Dame connection in Palm Springs, there were a lot of business men from Chicago who had more money than life. That was an eye-opener for me because I’d never thought much about Chicago. The amount of money they had was incredible.

Me: So if I’m hearing you correctly money attracts money. And lavish parties ensue.

Buck: Yeah, but the parties were never wild crazy things. Everybody in  Palm Springs was pretty low-key. They played golf together, they did skeet shooting, backgammon, everybody did whatever they had to to network. And they really networked, that was the whole reason they were there. And there was a protocol. If a party ended at a certain time, say a luncheon ended at 2 PM, everyone was gone at 2 PM, because they had another thing to go to by 3 or 4. Or if a party was from 6 to 8, everybody was gone by 8 on the nose. These parties were real gatherings and it was considered business, sort of.

Me: It was business?

Buck: Yeah, well they conducted business by being there and being social and keeping their connections. Let me put it this way: there was nobody dancing on a table top with a lampshade on their head.

Me: So they were there to touch base with each other basically?

Buck: People really talked at these things. They really networked, it was the first time I saw that. That’s where the deals were made, at these get-togethers and parties. And like I said, these parties would last two hours. At the end of two hours BANG, everybody would split. 

Me: Give me some more names of people who had parties. What about Bob Hope? Did you see him very often?

Buck: Bob once in a while, but Dolores all the time. Their house burned down. They were building a big geodesic dome and it burned down, and there was something about the Palm Springs Fire Department being late or not showing up. And after, there were lots of problems because his lawyer forgot to insure it. The burned-out shell was gigantic, and it just sat there like that for a long time.

Me: Bob Newhart?

Buck: Mr. and Mrs. Bob Newhart made the rounds. Phyllis Diller. All those Johnny Carson-Merv Griffin-Mike Douglas people. It was TV people. Like, I didn’t see Sir Laurence Olivier there. And I didn’t see Merv Griffin or Johnny Carson, actually.

Me: Mike Douglas?

Buck: No, but I saw Kirk Douglas.

Me: Red Skelton?

Buck: Yeah, he lived in Palm Springs full time. He had a huge garage with the days of the week written over it, and inside was a different Rolls Royce parked under each day of the week. He had a car for each day.

Me: Rich Little?

Buck: Yes

Me: Kaye Ballard?

Buck: Yes. 

Me: Frank Sinatra?

Buck: Frank Sinatra was not a big party guy but he did have a couple. He tipped with hundred dollar bills.

Me: Excellent. Did you get one?

Buck: Yep. He handed them out personally. It wasn’t like he patted you on the back or anything, but he was a nice guy and he personally handed each of us a hundred and thanked us.

Me: What did he smell like? Did he smell like booze?

Buck: No.

Me: What about his house? What was the kitchen like?

Buck: He had a nice house, the kitchen was big. But none of it was ostentatious. It wasn’t a mansion like you think of in Beverly Hills.  A lot of the houses were just unbelievably cool getaway houses. And most people’s houses were clearly visible from the street. A lot of people didn’t hide, like back East they all hide behind gates and everything. But in Palm Springs you could see their places. I loved the way the whole money thing was there, they looked like they were having fun spending money. Back East it was just a big old Yankee power trip, their houses were hidden and they snuck around to spend money, if they spent it at all.In Palm Springs they had cars as fashion accessories. I loved Frank Sinatra’s agent, he had identical cars at each house. In Palm Springs he had a Ferrari, a couple Rolls Royces, about eight or nine cars in the garage. And back in Beverly Hills he had the exact same cars in the exact same colors, and they took the exact same keys. He liked his cars but he didn’t want to have to drive them back and forth, so he had two sets.

Me: Oh God, I hate when people spend millions on cars. I hate when people spend millions on cars the way you hate when people spend hundreds on yarn.

Buck: I do hate expensive yarn. 

Me: Speaking of yarn, I saw a knitted motorcycle the other day. It’s at the Georgia Museum of Art.

Buck: How did you find that? 

 Me: I Googled knitted motorcycle. Imagine my complete shock when one immediately appeared.

Buck: But why? Why did you Google it?

Me: I don’t know. It just came to me. And when it immediately showed up on the screen, I knew I was meant to Google it …. So, who else did you see in Palm Springs? Did everybody travel around alone or as couples, or did they pal around and buddy up like Lucy and Totie?

Buck: Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara and John Cassavetes went around together.  

Me: I can see that. They all resembled each other at that point. Did you know that’s John Cassavetes as the husband in Rosemary’s Baby

Buck: Right.

Me: Well, for some reason I always remember it as being Roman Polanski

Buck: Roman Polanski was the director —

Me:I know but I always have to remind myself that he didn’t also star as the husband. They kind of look alike, and maybe that’s where I get confused. Although Roman is more elfin.

Buck: That new sub-group of humans.

Me: Yes! Roman is totally part of that

Elijah Wood sub-group.

Buck: How often does this Cassavetes problem come up for you?

Me: Not that often, only when they show Rosemary’s Baby on TV. So, Roman Polanski wasn’t with this crew? This 2 Live Crew?

Buck: No.

Me: Just Ben Gazzara, John Cassavetes, and Columbo.

Buck: Yeah.

Me: And nobody really misbehaved at the parties you were at? Ben Gazzara never grabbed Rona Barrett’s breast or started making out with Rula Lenska?

Buck: No.

Me: Give me something weird. Disgust me, if you can.

Buck: One time this art museum in Palm Springs was opening this Frank Sinatra sculpture wing [The Frank Sinatra Sculpture Court at the PS Art Museum] and all the trustees were together for this thing. The trustees were like Dolores Hope and all these very well-to-do wives of big stars. We had set up very fancy table settings, they were kind of valuable, it all had to be locked up and signed and accounted for because it was real silver and real copper etc. Well … somebody was stealing the creamer sets.

Me: You mean a guest? [laughing]

Buck: [laughing] Yeah! And at this thing you had to be donating at least a hundred-grand to even be on the guest list. And a hundred-grand back in the 70s is probably like a million today. And one of these women was stealing creamers and salt and pepper shakers.

Me: [laughing] Well I totally believe that. I think some people have a problem when it comes to getting what they feel is owed to them. Look at Ethel Kennedy writing bad checks at the Hallmark store —

Buck: [laughing] It wasn’t just at Hallmark, it was ALL OVER THE CAPE . If you accepted a check from Ethel Kennedy you were supposed to just tuck it away as a keepsake. Because if you tried to cash it, it would bounce.

Me: I thought there was an incident at the Hallmark —

Buck: Oh, that was in the stationary store. The girl I knew who took a check from Ethel, and Ethel’s secretary came up behind her and said, Don’t cash that, and handed her the cash to cover it.

Me: Same thing. Stationary, a few things from Talbots, sterling creamer sets. Some people are so out of touch with reality  they think this stuff is owed them. What happened about the creamers, or was it an Ethel Kennedy maneuver? Were you supposed to feel honored to have been ripped off by Mrs. Dan Rowan or Mrs. Howdy Doody? 

Buck: Mrs. Dan Rowan wasn’t there, and Howdy Doody wasn’t real.

Me: Before my time.

Buck: But what happened was, I brought it up. I went up to the woman who owned the catering service and I said, Listen, we’re missing a few creamers, and she said, Shut up! I know what’s happening, and you just forget all about it! So I had to let it go.

Me: So … basically, it was an Ethel Kennedy move.

Buck: Yep.

Me: Damn it. Well, I asked to be disgusted and you’ve done it.

Buck: Yep. You can always count on me.



Links:  Artist Theresa Honeywell’s motorcycle installation.

Again with the appalling Elijah Wood children’s dance video. Because Elijah’s part of the same sub-group of imps as Roman Polanski, and I can’t just can’t get enough of this video. Who can? I mean, really. It’s actually shocking.


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 I’ve been trying to squeeze in some interview time with Buck, but he’s been really busy. So it’s come to this lately: serializing  blog entries and hurried PhotoShop shenanigans.

In the early- to mid-1970s when Buck was trying out different parts of the country, he lived in Palm Springs for a time and worked for a company that owned a very exclusive private club called The Gammonor. This same company also catered parties and events hosted by celebrities.

Me: This past weekend there was a show on about Lucille Ball. Finding Lucy or something. I didn’t watch it. I think Fran Drescher was on it, as a commenter. But I noticed you didn’t watch it, either. And you never watch I Love Lucy, or anything with Lucy in it.

Buck: No, I don’t.

Me: Why?

Buck: Because that’s my idea of livin’ hell. I prefer comedy.

Me: Well right, Lucy isn’t funny. She just isn’t and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a generational thing, the way people thought Laugh-In was hilarious. Although I do remember thinking I Love Lucy was entertaining when I was like 3 … up till I was about 5. I feel like I spent hours on the couch in my parents’ den watching Lucy and Andy Griffith and Beverly Hillbillies, etc. But you knew Lucille Ball back in Palm Springs, so I would think you’d be sort of interested in her.

Buck: I’m not. I’m not at all interested in her.

Me: Tell me about her. What was she like at that point in her life.

Buck: She was addicted to backgammon. She was at The Gammonor every single morning playing backgammon. I saw her every day. Her name was Morton then, from marrying Gary Morton, and I’d say Good morning Mrs. Morton. And she’d say [in a deep raspy voice meant to by Lucy’s] Good morning Buck, how’re you? She had a truck driver’s voice at that point. It was really bad, all from smoking. But she was very pleasant.

Me: Who’d she play backgammon with?

Buck: Totie Fields. Totie was in the last stages of her life, then.

Me: Totie was on Merv Griffin a lot when I was a kid. I remember when she had to have her leg amputated. That was sad. I didn’t really understand it at the time.

Buck: Well Lucy just brought her around with her, because Totie was pretty screwed up at that point.

Me: So, um … they hung around together?

Buck: I think Lucy brought her around because it was getting near the end and Lucy was being a friend to her.

Me: Were Lucy and Totie Fields drinking?

Buck: I never paid attention, but I kind of don’t think so. A lot of people didn’t drink, they just got coffeed out while playing backgammon. They acted like if they didn’t play backgammon they would die.

Me: What about Junior Lucy  and Larry Luckinbill?

Buck: Come to think of it, Larry Luckinbill was there, but not Lucy junior. I don’t know where she was. He was there with big Lucy, I believe. 

Me: Who was Lucy playing? Just Totie Fields?

Buck: She played everybody. She played a lot of these silently wealthy women you know, they weren’t stars like her but they were very wealthy.

Me:  Well forget them. Name someone I’d know. Who was there?

Buck: Everybody, you name it. I ended up running the catering to the movie stars company, and because I was the point man I ended up seeing everybody.

Me: But who was there? Give me some names.

Buck: It was people who were quietly revered in television. Like, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Stack. And Harry Guardino. Everybody LOVED Harry Guardino.

Me: Okay, I just Googled Harry Guardino. He actually died in Palm Springs in 1995, so he must have been smart enough to stay living in a place where everybody loved him. Unlike us.

Buck: Why do you relate everything to you and I?

Me: I don’t know.

Buck: Harry Guardino always played a cop. He was always the captain.

Me: Yes. Internet Movie Database has him listed as playing Sergeant Simmons, and Vice Detective Collins, and Lieutenant Al Bressler —

Buck: Whatever. Stop reading me that.

Me: Was Lyle Wagner ever there?

Buck: Actually, Lyle Wagner was there. That was back when he was just starting his business doing trailers for movie stars on location.

Me: Oh yeah, I forgot all about that. Though I don’t know why I’d want to remember it.

Buck: Surprisingly, the most popular people among the in-crowd in Palm Springs weren’t the biggest name stars. Like, Harry Guardino was revered but he wasn’t a mega superstar, you know?

Me: Whose house parties did you do? 

Buck: [sighs] Let me think …… Frank Sinatra’s agent. Red Skelton.  Liberace. I’ve told you about Liberace, he had that infamous Let’s all fly to Hawaii for breakfast thing in the middle of his party. And we had to scramble to make them all snacks to take with them. Like 20 people were getting in their private jets to follow Liberace to Hawaii for breakfast and we had to make them snacks.

Me: They were all on his plane?

Buck: No. They were all on their own planes.

Me: That’s crazy. I would have refused. I would have said, Lee, this was your big idea, you fly me or I’m not going.  … Who else?

Buck: Rona Barrett got me in trouble once.

Me: Why?! [laughing]

Buck: [laughing] I got in trouble with Rona Barrett because there was a party protocol where you never-ever parked in someone’s driveway, because that’s where the catering trucks always parked. Guests knew they were not supposed to park in driveways, and it just wasn’t done. Plus, there was always valet parking at these parties so finding a parking space wasn’t even an issue.

Me: Okay.

Buck: So, I had to run back and get something at Smoke Tree Village, which was a mini-mall owned by the lady who owned the catering company. But when I got back to the party, Rona Barrett’s Rolls Royce was parked in the driveway and I couldn’t get the catering van up to the house.

Me: How rude of Rona. She drove it herself?

Buck: Yeah. They all did. So I had to make an announcement, and because parking in the driveway was such a major no-no on a guest’s part, I wanted to be kind of funny. So I said, Can I have your attention please? Somebody has parked in the driveway and we need to have the car moved … it’s an old Buick.

Me: [laughing] Oh my God. What did she do?

Buck: Rona Barrett came running over and she was absolutely bullshit. She was yelling at me, It’s a Rolls Royce! It’s a Rolls! and was slapping me on the shoulder. She was furious because everybody was looking at each other like, Oh wow, Rona’s driving a Buick. It apparently caused a lot of problems, which I heard about later.

Tomorrow: Red Skelton, Frank Sinatra, and Peter Falk

( sounds like a setup for a joke, doesn’t it? “Red Skelton, Frank Sinatra, and Peter Falk were all sitting in a boat …”  It’s not a setup. And they weren’t together at all, much less in a boat.)



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